Labor Tips for Moms Nervous About Giving Birth for The First Time
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Are you a pregnant mother with a legit fear of childbirth? I mean, you actually feel nervous about giving birth for the first time — so much that you’re here, at 3AM reading this article? I was once you too.
Maybe it’s the fear of not having a “normal birth” (*ahem* all births are normal) and needing a cesarean section. Maybe it’s the fear of not having enough pain relief during labor.
Maybe it’s because the birth process is a beautiful act of strength and feeling completely terrified all at once.
If you’re feeling those jitterbugs and self-doubt comin’ in hot, I want you to know that no matter how your birth experience turns out — you’re one heck of a mama.
I also want you to know that this article is LOADED with tips to help you prepare for labor and delivery from an actual L&D nurse. Her name is Liesel Teen, and you might recognize her as @mommy.labornurse on Instagram! Liesel is a labor & delivery nurse who helps educate moms about birth and what’s to come! She also has a WEALTH of birth information on her blog, MommyLaborNurse.
DISCLAIMER:This post is for information and educational purposes ONLY & does not constitute medical advice by any means. If you think you need medical attention, please consult with your medical provider!
What exactly does “going into labor” mean?
Labor in itself is the act of your uterus contracting to end with birthing a baby! Aka: Childbirth!
It’s important to know that “when” you should go to the hospital for labor will vary per person. You should also be thinking about your commute to the hospital, will there be traffic, do you know where to park, etc…
The rule of thumb is that once you’re in “active labor“, you should be on your way or at the hospital.
If you’re having a home birth, you will likely be in contact with your midwife during this time and she will be there guiding you through the process.
If this is your first pregnancy and you are feeling a little flustered and unsure when to head out to the hospital, simply give your healthcare team a call (or better yet, ask your partner to call for you) and they will provide extra support to help you determine when to head into the hospital.
When to start pushing during labor?
Typically, you will start pushing your baby out once you’re 10cm dilated and your body is ready to get that baby out!
The wait time between labor and pushing can sometimes seem like an eternity, but eventually, it will happen!
Once you begin pushing, your doctor or nurses will likely help you to pace and breathe through each push. Timing it along with those hefty contractions so that each push is effective and you’re not just tiring yourself out.
On average, most first-time moms push anywhere from 2-3 hours.
Have you taken a birth class yet?
Now…you can take it FROM HOME & prepare yourself (and even your partner) for childbirth.
And don’t forget, after you’re done pushing out your sweet baby, you still have to deliver that placenta! This typically happens within 30 mins or less after your baby is born.
This means you will likely continue to have contractions, in fact, until your uterus shrinks back down to its normal size over the next few weeks, you will continue to have uterine contractions. Just know they shouldn’t be nearly as intense as birthing contractions.
For me, they felt more like intense menstrual cramps, but nothing worst.
What should moms expect after they deliver their baby?
Although I love the idea of preparing and educating moms so they can minimize their fear of the unknown when it comes to giving birth, there also are some aspects we simply can’t be 100% prepared for.
Such as the after birth experience.
For some mothers, they will feel relief, happiness, and joy as they hold their newborn babies close and finally embrace them after carrying them in the womb the last 8-9 months.
For other mothers, they might have feelings of sadness due to their hormones or perinatal/postpartum depression. It might even take these mothers longer to feel any sort of connection with their infants — and that’s ok.
And let’s also not forget about the mother’s who may experience some form of trauma or loss. For these moms, the postpartum period often is not an easy or joyous time, however, with the proper help and emotional support from experts, they can learn how to sit with their feelings and eventually move through them while honoring all the beautiful moments of motherhood in between.
In general, here are a few common occurrences moms may experience after giving birth:
Menstrual-like cramps or pain as they deliver the placenta & their uterus begins shrinking back down.
Feelings of sadness due to the baby blues.
Embracing in skin-to-skin contact with baby.
Latching and breastfeeding baby for the first time.
If there was any tearing involved, you will be sutured after you deliver.
If you had a c-section, you’ll be able to see your baby and then be moved into recovery with them.
Tips for Moms Who Are Nervous About Giving Birth for The First Time (from a Labor & Delivery Nurse)
It was a pleasure chatting with Liesel Teen of Mommy Labor Nurse to ask some questions about Labor & Delivery and hear her take as an experienced Labor Nurse. So get ready to ease those birth fears!
Preparing for labor & delivery can leave you feeling good, but also open up a lot of doors for even more questions. Here’s the 4-1-1 from an actual labor & delivery nurse to help you ease your fear of birth.
Tell us about yourself: Hi! Thanks so much for having me! My name is Liesel Teen, and I am a labor and delivery nurse and also a mom! I live in Raleigh, NC with my husband and my 3-year old son. Along with working at the hospital, I also have a brand dedicated to pregnancy/labor education. You may know me as Mommy Labor Nurse throughout the internet! It’s my passion to share the knowledge that I have as a nurse with as many moms as I can through the internet so that they feel more prepared going into motherhood! 🙂
What’s ONE tip you can give new mothers to help ease their fear of birth?: My favorite tip is to educate yourself! That’s what my whole brand and birth courses are about. The more educated you are going into labor, hopefully, the more in control you will feel of the situation. It can be so so scary for women to go through this process (especially first-time moms) despite it being a really exciting time. And the more we know, the better, more informed, decisions we can make. And, the less anxiety we will have as a result!
How can a first time mom be sure labor has begun?: Labor is the kind of thing that you USUALLY will not question. I’ve had some moms be in complete denial at 6-8 centimeters dilated, but typically, when it’s real labor…you’re not going to be asking yourself, “Am I in labor right now?”. You’re going to be saying, “Oh wow, ok I’m definitely in labor and this ain’t stopping!”. Some of the characteristics of true labor contractions include painful, regular, and intensifying contractions. There is nothing that you can do to stop these contractions once they start. They begin to follow a pattern, and you’ll increasingly find yourself changing your mood and your breathing through them. You may find that eventually, you cannot talk at all through them. Another sign of labor? Your water breaks! Your water can break in one of two ways, a BIG gush (like you peed your pants)…or a slow trickle that doesn’t ease up. Remember that if you ever THINK your water has broken (regardless of how many weeks you are) – call your provider to be evaluated.
How long can moms expect to be in labor?: There’s really not! It’s so so so dependent on so many factors! I’ve seen some moms have 1-hour labors, from start to finish, and others have 48-hour labors. Typically, if this is your first time, your labor will be longer (don’t be surprised if it lasts for more than a day!) – but of course, that’s not always the case.
How many stages of labor are there?: In a typical scenario, your labor will go through four stages. The first stage is the longest, which is broken up into subsections: early labor, active labor, and transitional labor.
What does each stage of labor entail?: The first stage is from when your cervix is 0cm – 10cm dilated. Early labor begins when you start to have mild to moderate contractions that are beginning to show a pattern. You will typically be able to breathe through these and talk through them. This early stage ends when your cervix is typically 4-5 centimeters.
Active labor is more intense. Your contractions will intensify, and you’ll have a much harder time managing these contractions as compared to early labor. Lots of changes in positions, labor support, water therapy, and counterpressure can be helpful here! This stage ends when your cervix is approximately 7 centimeters.
Then on to transitional labor. Transitional labor is the craziest part of labor for sure! You may show your crazy side, yell, scream, thrash, etc. Labor support is immensely important here! This is the shortest sub-stage of labor, for a good reason! Once you hit 10cm, this entire first stage ends, and you move to the whole second stage: pushing. Pushing lengths, again, can really depend on so many factors. Some moms push for 2 contractions, others push for many many more! After pushing, comes your sweet baby!
The third stage is from the time you deliver baby, to the time you deliver your placenta. There’s not too much to say about this stage, it’s USUALLY pretty short-lived, although sometimes placentas can be tricky and require additional interventions to be removed.
The final and fourth stage begins with the delivery of your placenta and ends around 1-2 hours postpartum. In this time, your uterus begins to contract HARD. Don’t worry though, these contractions don’t feel ANYTHING like labor contractions. They are a LOT less painful. Some women do report “period-like cramps”, but many women do not feel these contractions at all in the first few hours. In this first hour or two, your nurse will be checking your bleeding, rubbing on your uterus (from the outside, ha) and checking your vital signs pretty frequently.
What should moms expect when they arrive at the hospital (for those having a hospital birth)?: If you arrive in L&D triage with a complaint of “labor”, there will be a few things done! First, your medical team will ask you four questions: 1 – “When did you start contractions?” 2 – “Has your water broken yet?” 3 – “Is your baby moving around normally?” 4 – “Are you bleeding at all?” You’ll then be asked to change, provide a urine sample, and be placed on the fetal monitor to evaluate your baby’s heart rate and contractions. We will need to monitor you for about 20 minutes unless something is abnormal. During this time, we will be asking you routine questions for our database. Questions like, “What do you plan to do for pain?” “Do you have a birth plan?” “What is your feeding plan for your baby?”. After you’re all checked in, and you’ve been monitored, your provider will come to see you and perform a cervical check to determine how dilated you are. He/she will also test you to see if your water has broken if you’re concerned about that! If you’re more than 4 centimeters, OR your water has broken, you’re here to stay and we’ll get you out to a labor room!
What should moms know to make an informed decision on getting an epidural for pain management?: It can be scary, and again, I stress that knowledge is power here! I’ve written an article that details the ENTIRE procedure which you can read about here. Often times moms will read this article and report that this totally eased their fears about what it’s going to be like! Just a few other tips, I think getting an epidural is such a personal preference. I chose not to get one with my first birth, but who knows, I may choose to get one for any future births I have! Labor is definitely harder without one, but they do come with small risks and side effects (and I talk more about these in my online birth courses). It’s just about what you envision your birth to look like!
Can moms rely on other coping techniques for birth pain management?: Yes of course! One of the main points that I stress to my patients (and members who took my courses) is to focus on breathing and relaxing all the muscles in your body as best you can during a contraction. I even show step-by-step common breathing techniques in my courses too. You’ll want to breathe as deeply and as slowly as possible, and think about relaxing not only your pelvis but your face, your arms, your shoulder…everything! This not only helps to relieve pain, but it also helps to distract you during the contraction, and helps you progress too!
From your experience, what tend to be the best labor positions for giving birth?: There are a few! Many moms do prefer the typical lithotomy position (legs up in stirrups), but some women report back pain from this, and overall discomfort. A position I like to do with moms is hands and knees, this helps get pressure off of your back, and gravity helps pull your baby down too. Others include side-lying (pulling one leg up), or squatting. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to have a convo with your birth provider during your prenatal care about your birth wishes. Some providers (sadly) are not too keen on any other position other than lithotomy for delivery, and if this is something that is important to you, make sure you bring it up!
Can you share more about your affordable birth classes and what sets them apart?: My original Birth It Up course is for a mom who prefers to go a more natural route (no epidural preferred) and Birth It Up 2.0 course is for a mom who knows going into it that she wants an epidural! We talk about pain management, AND epidurals in both courses, but each course is slightly different depending on which way you’d prefer to go! They are both very long, detailed courses. I talk about anatomy, pain management, pushing, pain options, what to expect during postpartum and more! They also include free access to my Facebook group, linked to the courses, where you can ask questions, share your birth story, or read other women’s birth stories who have previously delivered! I’m very proud of them, and I have had so many moms rave about having wonderful, empowering births because they were so prepared for the process! If you’re new to my courses, I offer a free birth preparation course that you can sign-up for here to get a taste of how I teach my classes.
Any final tips or words of wisdom you have for expecting moms?: Let’s see, my overall theme is certainly to educate yourself! But I would also advise a new, soon-to-be-mom that sometimes ALL of this info is overwhelming, and to take it one step at a time, and ask ANY AND ALL questions that you have. Being pregnant and becoming a mom changes your life in so many ways, and brings so many challenges and questions! Don’t be afraid to question things that don’t make sense to you, and don’t be afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself, whether that’s in your prenatal care, in the delivery room, or in your peds office. Knowledge is power, and knowledge also brings confidence 🙂
Connect with Liesel Teen aka Mommy Labor Nurse on her social media pages below: